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The Songtexts

There are countless Arabic songs about the desire to travel abroad, the homesickness of the migrant, the question whether one should stay or go. For this film, we asked all people we spoke with to suggest songs that they would find expressive of the longing for abroad and home. With the exception of The Blue Danube (12:30) and Add il-huruf ("As Much as the Letters", 06:40) a hit that just happened to be playing on a radio at the street during the shooting, the songs in the film were selected on the basis of such suggestions.

In the final edit, we decided not to subtitle the songs, because it would have made the film too heavy on subtitles, but here are the translations of the songs and the stories behind them.

Hatgannin ya Rit ya Khwanna Maruhtish London Wala Baris
(I'll Go Crazy, Brothers, I Never Went to London or Paris)
Zakariya Ahmad

"I'll go crazy, brothers, I never went to London or Paris
Those are the cities of civilization, cleanliness, kindness, and it makes me mad..."

This is a classic from the 1920's written by Bayram al-Tunsi, and it still expresses the unbroken modernism and optimism of those days, looking forward to Europe as the site of modernity and progress in a humorous tone. Zakariya Ahmad, Bayram al-Tunsi and other authors and musicians of the early 20th century continue to be popular especially among the intellectuals.

Add il-Huruf
(As Much as the Letters )
Asala Nasri

"Why is the moon precious to me?
Because in its glow and its distance,
there is a resemblance to you.
Why is the winter...."

This hit by the Syrian pop singer Asala just happened to be playing loud on a radio when we were shooting the street scene where it can be heard. We found it fitting and used it.

Fi Eniki Ghurba
(There is Estrangement in Your Eyes)
Muhammad Munir

"In your eyes, there's estrangement and unfamiliarity
and yet I'm fervently longing for you.
In your eyes, there's estrangement and unfamiliarity..."

Muhammad Munir, one of Egypt's most famous pop singers of the day, has sung many songs about travel and homesickness. This one was suggested to us by Basim who is a big fan of Munir.

An der schönen, blauen Donau
(Blue Danube)
Johann Strauss II.

Daniela Swarowsky, who herself migrated from Vienna in 1995, has developed a nostalgia towards this song (and other things typically Viennese that she would have shunned before), ever-increasing the longer she lives abroad.

Layali Al-Uns fi Vienna
(Nights of Intimacy in Vienna)

"Enjoy your youth in Vienna
Vienna is a garden of paradise..."

This song from the last film of Egypt's first pop star Asmahan from 1946 continues to be the most well know reference to Vienna in Arabic popular culture. Almost everybody in Egypt will associate Vienna with the first lines "Layali al-uns fi Vienna...." In Vienna, however, Egyptians we interviewed would often be rather disillusioned about the song: "As you may have heard from Asmahan, Vienna is a garden of paradise. I don't know if she's saying that because she had heard of it, or seen it, or whether she was just singing anything." (Adil) "Asmahan cheated us" (Esam)

Al-Tir Al-Musafir
(The Travelling Bird)
Nagat Al-Saghira

"We sent with the travelling bird a letter,
a scolding, soil from the land of our forefathers,
and a flower from the valley.
Perhaps the migrant will remember
that he has loved ones at home,
that he has loved ones at home."

This song was selected by Ashraf, who in the film tells the story of the concert of Nagat al-Saghira he saw in Jordan in the 1990. It is one of the songs that accompanied the first wave of Egyptian migration to the Gulf states after the oil boom, and a splendid piece in the style of Arabic tarab about homesickness and longing, and we also used its instrumental intro for the opening and closing scenes of the film.

Intro // Trailer // About the film // Songtexts // Credits // Stills // Press // Screenings // Order // Trilogy Home